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Sacrificing or compromising one's career for a spouse?

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  • Avatar conniebird 
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    Calling on the wisdom of MDs further along in their career, or really anyone that has been married for several years. Looking for points of view, pearls, advice – obviously no one can make this decision but me (and my partner together).

    Here’s the situation – I am an attending, he is in a completely different field – less stable, but good earning potential in the 200K range. He has been out of work for a few months. He has potential job offers in the 150-200K range – but not in the city where we currently live in. One is for a “dream” job, one is for not a dream job, but still “pretty good”. We currently live in a very HCOL and would be moving to a lower COL. This new city/area would be better for things like great public schools for kiddos (not in the picture yet but planning on it).

    Then there is the BUT – I am very happy in my job. It is my “dream job” in many ways. I am in academics, but not “hardcore” – I do things that most people in my field cannot do unless they are in academics. I work for a very large health system with GREAT benefits – 403b (with very generous employer contributions), 457b, small cash pension plan, even tuition support for college/grad school for kids. I make a great salary with potential to make an additional 100K in the next year (base + productivity salary model). My family is here (great for future kiddos). No family in the new city.

    I definitely make more than he does, but his career potential long term will approach my salary. I am just worried that I wont be as happy in another job (since I will most likely need to go into private practice, with less benefits but higher income potential). What if we move then his job doesn’t work out?

    How have others approached this kind of situation?

    “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. (S)he who understands it, earns it ... (s)he who doesn't ... pays it.”

    @ missbonniemd.com

    #24126 Reply
    hatton1 hatton1 
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    I think what you want to avoid is becoming resentful because you quit your dream job and moved to a city where you have no friends or family support.  Then the marriage ends because you are so dissatisfied and you blame him. Then you are in a new city with no family and a job you do not like. It makes sense to me to let him take the new job and make sure he is happy with it.  In the meanwhile you could check out the area maybe even interview and see what is available.  You might even like the new place. My husband and I live in different towns.  It works for us.

    #24130 Reply
    PhysicianOnFIRE PhysicianOnFIRE 
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    That’s a tough one. Moving away from family when kids might be in the future is a pretty big deal.

    When faced with big decisions like this, I would recommend each of you make a full page list of pros in one column, and cons in the other. Do this for staying put and again for making that move… Share your lists with each other.

    Hopefully the best Plan will become clear. Ideally, you will mutually agree on a decision without lingering resentment.

    Best of luck!

    -PoF

     

     

    40-something anesthesiologist and personal finance blogger @ https://physicianonfire.com [Part of the WCI Network] Find me on Twitter: @physicianonfire

    FIRE. Financial Independence. Retire Early.

    #24135 Reply
    Avatar jhwkr542 
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    There will be compromise.

    I think it’d be best for you two to consider each situation seriously. Try to look for middle ground. And be as honest as possible, even if the truth hurts. Does he take less pay? Does someone quit? I’ve seen decisions like this ruin marriages because both people were never on board with the other’s plan but they did it anyways. I would never consider any job a “dream” job if my spouse was unhappy.

    #24136 Reply
    Liked by Jenn
    Avatar Jenn 
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    Connie factor in the resentment either of you would feel at self if the marriage ends and one had sacrificed happiness in one’s career for it. I expect you could return to your good position (unless it’s faculty ie the spot will be filled when you leave) in a few years if the new town doesn’t work out. If they know why you’re leaving they’ll know why you come back and consider it a compliment, and you can both hope that he finds work back in your hometown someday.

    However that possibility- that you’ll move back in a few years- is a good reason to seek an employed spot rather than private practice in the new town- maybe even employed nonpartner in a standing small practice.

    I followed my husband around for 22 years. Me enabling him to have a successful military career AND two kids and a well run home is an obvious reason for why I do not have a thriving 22 year old private practice, or am not now a COL or BGen (who knows?) in the Army. The kids alone are worth the trade of course, and I got to live and work in many interesting places, but had he run off during years 7-18 with someone else I’d feel hard used and of course there’d be little recourse for me.

    Similarly but the opposite way I was relieved when my 23 yo daughter refused to dictate to her college boyfriend which town he should go to (since her field is not available everywhere), half a year ahead of her, rather than stick with a very good job offer where he was already known and liked. Not too surprising then that they have since parted- thank the gods and her good sense he had not given up his plum job for her.

    #24148 Reply
    Liked by RocDoc, hatton1
    hatton1 hatton1 
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    Great heart-felt post Jenn.  It is hard to have it all.  I think Conniebird and her fiance have to figure it out.  It is not easy.

    #24149 Reply
    Vagabond MD Vagabond MD 
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    I believe that Hatton1 alluded to this, but why not have your husband take the out of town job and check it out for a while, returning home on weekends or when otherwise convenient. I do not suggest this as a long term plan, but I think that it buys him some time to find his dream job closer to where you live and also work the remote job and determine if it is really a good fit. In six months, he should know. It might be kicking the can down the road, but sometimes a problem like this needs a tincture of time, as they used to say…

    Most dream jobs are purely fantasy.

     

    #24153 Reply
    Liked by RocDoc, Jenn, hatton1
    Avatar EH 
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    Are there job options for him in your current area? You make plenty of money so there isn’t urgency to finding a job. My husband took 6 months to find a good job in his field and I know others have taken longer but ended up working out well. I would be hard pressed to leave a great job and family with kids in the near future. That being said if there are no job prospects you have to consider moving. I would also consider looking at what other cities would potentially meet both of your job needs even if they were farther away.

    #24158 Reply
    uptoolate uptoolate 
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    So after consulting with my DW who has made many career sacrifices along the way…

    We don’t envy you the decision before you. The pros and cons lists sound like a great idea and you have already listed some of them.

    One question we would have is whether in your academic center, your plan to have children will derail your career plans and earning ability. On the upside, being in an academic setting with great benefits usually makes taking maternity leave less stressful and better funded than in private practice. On the downside, the increased demands and desires that go along with child-rearing can make it very hard to thrive in the pressure cooker that some academic centers can be.

    Having family in your city is a huge plus and moving away as you are planning children would be tough on everyone and possibly a great loss for the children.

    It sounds as if you have a good income and that his income is unlikely to reach the same level as yours? (Bearing in mind the impact of having and raising children. The effect is quite variable depending on how long you would be off with each child and whether you returned to full time work.)  If you are in a rewarding academic niche job, you may find it difficult to transition to private practice in a smaller city. DW also points out how important it is as a female MD to have a supportive group of colleagues and friends and how difficult it maybe for you to replicate the networks that you currently have.

    Is it unlikely that there will be work for him in your current city?  I agree with other sentiments about continuing to try to find work for him in your current city.  Your salary and benefits should be able to permit a longer job search. What kind of benefits will come with his prospective job?  These loom large when planning children – great benefits can be invaluable.

    The two of you have to make the decision but on the face of it, as you have laid it out, we would tend to say try your best to stay put.  A bird in the hand if you like. Two birds if you were to include a supportive family. Just one couple’s opinion.

    It strikes me that if the genders were reversed in this scenario, and the husband was the attending with the great academic job and benefits, there wouldn’t be much discussion.  That may just be my jaded view though. All the best with your decision.

    #24159 Reply
    Liked by hatton1
    hatton1 hatton1 
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    If kids come soon what is the plan?  Will you want to work less to stay with them?  Will he? If you stay local will your family help with this? Is he pressuring you to move?

    #24162 Reply
    Liked by Jenn
    Avatar Jenn 
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    It strikes me that if the genders were reversed in this scenario, and the husband was the attending with the great academic job and benefits, there wouldn’t be much discussion.  That may just be my jaded view though. All the best with your decision.

    Click to expand…

    THIS!!! ANd if you have time read Ann Crittenden’s The Price of Motherhood for a thorough review of the trade off I described above. If you don’t have time, here’s the three sentence takeaway I still retain: professional women who put their careers on hold or on slow gear (mommytrack) have no compensation (or recourse in court) for this multi million $ sacrifice. If you give up or really alter your career for a lifetime with him (and brasstacks, counting on his pension and money in old age since you might be sacrificing your own) no judge will make sure you still get that after you’ve paid the price but your husband reneges on the deal 15-20-30-40 years down the road.

    So make certain it’s worth it- and while it may be for kids, I would say it is NOT for a husband if it is not necessary for the kids part. (And if you can’t do a long distance marriage for some period of time it ain’t truly a marriage.) JMO.

    Less pertinent here but the other book I give college graduates is Getting to 50:50. Summary: your kids’ childhood is short, life is long- make the sacrifices to keep your real job and care for the children in those early years. Your empty nest self will be very grateful and your kids will likely be BETTER off (especially if you’re as poor a housewife and as happy a doctor as I am).

    #24165 Reply
    Liked by hatton1, RocDoc
    Avatar RocDoc 
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    THIS!!! ANd if you have time read Ann Crittenden’s The Price of Motherhood for a thorough review of the trade off I described above. If you don’t have time, here’s the three sentence takeaway I still retain: professional women who put their careers on hold or on slow gear (mommytrack) have no compensation (or recourse in court) for this multi million $ sacrifice. If you give up or really alter your career for a lifetime with him (and brasstacks, counting on his pension and money in old age since you might be sacrificing your own) no judge will make sure you still get that after you’ve paid the price but your husband reneges on the deal 15-20-30-40 years down the road.

    So make certain it’s worth it- and while it may be for kids, I would say it is NOT for a husband if it is not necessary for the kids part. (And if you can’t do a long distance marriage for some period of time it ain’t truly a marriage.) JMO.

    Less pertinent here but the other book I give college graduates is Getting to 50:50. Summary: your kids’ childhood is short, life is long- make the sacrifices to keep your real job and care for the children in those early years. Your empty nest self will be very grateful and your kids will likely be BETTER off (especially if you’re as poor a housewife and as happy a doctor as I am).

    I believe that Hatton1 alluded to this, but why not have your husband take the out of town job and check it out for a while, returning home on weekends or when otherwise convenient. I do not suggest this as a long term plan, but I think that it buys him some time to find his dream job closer to where you live and also work the remote job and determine if it is really a good fit. In six months, he should know. It might be kicking the can down the road, but sometimes a problem like this needs a tincture of time, as they used to say…

    Most dream jobs are purely fantasy.

     

    Click to expand…

    I agree with Jenn’s wise comment as well as Vagabond’s suggestion of your husband working out of town testing out the new job for awhile. As Hatton suggested, she and her husband live in different towns and it works for them. If your husband’s job allows him to occasionally work remotely from your current home as well as fly home most weekends, maybe you can both have your dream jobs in different towns.

    #24167 Reply
    Liked by hatton1
    Avatar conniebird 
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    Thank you all for the comments – they are all very helpful.

    I am not a hardcore academic, more like “academic light” – but I cannot duplicate the type of job I do very easily even with moving to another academic institution (and the ones in the new area are not very good). Ultimately, I think I would be ok going to private practice eventually…but not this early in my career (1 year out only).

    I am not interested in having a permanent long distance relationship (maybe 6 months tops if we decided to let him try out new job/new city)…and that would be nearly impossible with kids – plan is to be pregnant within the year. I will get paid leave (6-8 weeks) with my current job, not to mention the 12 weeks with FMLA if I wanted to take that full 12 weeks. I will not get paid leave if I go to PP in new city.

    He has his final round of interviews with dream job this week, so stay tuned. For what it’s worth, I briefly spoke to a male mentor of mine (retired MD, same field), and he said that we should def stay in our current city, no question. Anyway, heated discussions soon to follow I am sure….

    If he does not get “dream job” – should he only look for jobs in the area then?

     

    “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. (S)he who understands it, earns it ... (s)he who doesn't ... pays it.”

    @ missbonniemd.com

    #24179 Reply
    Avatar fasteddie911 
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    It’s definitely a difficult situation for you and I applaud you for even entertaining the idea of a move, I agree that often times if the gender’s were reversed, there would be no question who took priority.  How do you imagine parenthood would be handled?  Would you want to cut back your hours or would your husband cut back his?  Or would you both work fulltime and make it work?  If so, would you need more help from the family.  If given the option of cutting back hours, who would be more willing to do so?

    I would stay put, maybe try the long distance thing, but more likely have your husband find a job locally.  Do you absolutely need that extra income from this new job? If you move there are a bunch of unknowns, you don’t know if he’ll like it, or how long he’ll stay, you don’t know how you’ll all handle a new city or being away from family.  If any of those unknowns don’t work out favorably, I’d imagine it could cause some tension.  Right now it sounds like you’re in a good place with everything except for your husband’s job.

     

    #24182 Reply
    Liked by RocDoc
    Avatar jhwkr542 
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    If he does not get “dream job” – should he only look for jobs in the area then?

    Click to expand…

    Yes since it sounds like your job is not very mobile.

    #24183 Reply

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